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Albin Kurti for Reuters: Serbia can attack us, Kosovo is prepared
Kosovo is prepared for a possible attack from Serbia, as the increase in tensions with the Serbian minorities could lead to a new armed conflict, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said in an interview with Reuters .
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared again earlier this month when Pristina said it would force Serbs living in the north, who are supported by Belgrade and do not recognize Kosovo's institutions, to start using license plates issued by Pristina.
The situation eased after Kurti, under pressure from the US and the European Union, agreed to postpone the regulation of car license plates until September 1 and NATO peacekeepers oversaw the removal of roadblocks set up by the Serbs.
"We should not rule out that these aggressive policies of Belgrade can turn into an attack against Kosovo in one way or another", Kurti said, adding "We are alert, but not afraid".
He underlined: "I am not saying that they will attack us this week or next, but it would be completely irresponsible to rule out... the possibility of increased tensions and new conflicts."
Ethnic Serbs make up 5 percent of Kosovo's 1.8 million population, which is 90% Albanian. About 50,000 Serbs live in the north of Kosovo, near the border with Serbia. The remaining 40,000 live south of the Iber River.
KURTI CRITICIZES THE ROLE OF RUSSIA
Opposition parties in Pristina have accused Kurti of scaring investors by openly talking about a possible new conflict with Belgrade.
Kurti denies these accusations. He accused Russia, which is Serbia's main ally and has vetoed Kosovo's application for United Nations membership, of a role in fueling new ethnic tensions in the former southern Serbian province.
"The despotic president Vladimir Putin is a man of war and he would be interested in spreading the war because he wants to normalize the war," Kurti said.
Kurti and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic are expected to meet in Brussels for more talks on August 18. Belgrade and Pristina are publicly committed to an EU-sponsored dialogue to resolve outstanding issues, but little progress has been made. Kosovo has joined the EU and US sanctions against Moscow. Serbia has not imposed sanctions against Russia despite its intention to join the EU and harmonize foreign policy with the bloc.
NATO has about 3,700 troops stationed in Kosovo to maintain its fragile peace and last week said it would intervene in accordance with its mandate if stability was threatened.